The struggle between sons who want to follow their dreams and the fathers with other plans has been long been fodder for storytellers. "Hop" brings together a rabbit and human both fighting to follow their dreams.
E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) is a 20-something bunny living on Easter Island, where his father (voiced by Hugh Laurie sounding eerily like John Oliver) has been training him for years to take over the mantle of Easter Bunny.
But E.B. doesn’t want to work, he just wants to play drums in a rock band, and so he runs off to Hollywood. There he stumbles in front of a car being driven by Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), another shiftless do-nothing who’s a huge disappointment to his father. E.B. guilts Fred into letting him stay with him. As you can imagine, E.B. first drives Fred crazy, but the two go on to form a bond and eventually help each other realize their dreams.
Marsden almost single-handedly keeps “Hop” afloat with his unflagging energy and enthusiasm. He’s on screen for most of the film, often with no one to act against. Despite spending much of the film chasing or talking to a rabbit he cannot see, he manages to keep his dignity. And Hank Azaria is fantastic as Carlos, the chick who serves as the Easter Bunny’s dutiful No. 2, but resents the fact that his species isn’t even considered for the top job, and eventually launches a coup de etat.
Brand has made a career of going off script, yet here he seems to very much toe the line. It’s odd seeing (hearing?) a talent like Brand’s so under control, particularly in a film aimed at kids. It’s a bit disappointing.
What’s odd about “Hop” is that it’s not very funny, which is not to say it’s full of unfunny jokes, but rather that it’s largely without humor. It instead focuses too earnestly on E.B. and Fred’s struggles with their parents. That said, it’s a pleasant respite from so many children’s movies that try to simply wear you down with relentless schtick and dance numbers.
Smartly, the film is devoid of any religion, with E.B.’s dad making a comment about their's being a tradition that is 4,000 years old, which is ten times longer than the Easter Bunny has existed. No, the Easter Bunny is a purely secular, non-denominational dispenser of candy, though he’s not yet quite broken the market in China.
Between Marsden’s acting and the hard work of the animators, EB is almost seamlessly integrated into the real world, though setting Marsden in the candy factory at Easter Island proved more challenging. The factory is eye-popping in that candy-colored, Willy Wonka kind of way, with all manner of machinery producing peeps, gummies, bunny, kisses and the like.
“Hop” will leave your kids amused, but lacks that extra something that would inspire you to tell a non-parent they should see it. And depending on your childrearing philosophy, either you won’t think twice about the ending or you’ll furrow your brow with disappointment--you’ll find us in the latter camp.